Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Too Many Cold Showers

My wife and I purchased an apartment late last year in a 70+ year old building. We’re on the 5th floor, the top and we’ve noticed the showers don’t get hot enough. We’re having work done on one bathroom, so since January 1st we’ve been showering in the other bathroom where the water has never gotten warm enough. We essentially have a cold shower every time. The other shower is slightly warmer.

I asked the contractor and the superintendent what the problem could be and they said it was the mixer value jets. Apparently the old pipes have debris that clogs the jets thus the hot water side must be clogged. New valves have bigger jets. My sink hot water is scalding, it must be the jets.

Seems reasonable, so it was more cold showers until our other bathroom is renovated and we get a new water valve. A cold shower can be refreshing during the summer, but day after day in the winter is tough. I shave in the shower and the lack of hot water seriously impacts the closeness.

In Baltimore I had tiled my shower and installed the handle on the shower mixer valve which had a hot water mix adjustment. The design is to ensure you can prevent scalding.

This past Friday night as we sat watching TV, I started to think about that shower valve in Baltimore. Maybe the prior owner was ok with cold showers? My previous thinking was that nobody would purposefully subject themselves to cold showers everyday. The plumber who installed these valves must have adjusted them for the prior owner.

I booted up my laptop, checked the valve for make and model and proceeded to search. Sure enough there was a hot water mixer valve in this model. Next step was to disassemble it. Sure enough I needed a hex key, I didn’t have one. I'd have to wait until Saturday morning when the local hardware store opens.

I purchased the set, headed home and off with the handle. Viola! The hot water setting was not maxed out. All this time, all those cold showers, it was a simple Internet search away.

With the hot water setting cranked up to the max, I re-installed the handle. It was tough going, the screw was sticking. Nothing a daub of dishwasher soap can’t fix though, smooth installation.

Handle back on, shower on, hot shower is a go!

So where is this post going? Is there a natural gas leak in our apartment as I write this?

This story is applicable to business.

Everyday we do things a certain way because we assume that’s the best way. We get used to the cold shower, we accept it. We adapt our bathing process; we optimize our soap up time to ensure minimum time under the shower head.

In business everyday people doing things the same way they did them the previous day. Even if something is wrong, many times the root cause isn’t sought out. Maybe it takes research, maybe investment in a tool? Time surely you could have better spent running around after the shower to dry yourself and warm-up.

How often do we go back and double check our key assumptions? Check our processes? Challenge the status quo?

Maybe the person who created them was a madman or madwoman?

Maybe it was somebody who liked cold showers?

You'll never know until you check.

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